Exactly a week ago today I voted in the Wisconsin primaries. I had a choice: vote for the Republican senatorial nominee I’d most like to see run against Tammy Baldwin – a lady who earned my respect and a fair amount of loyalty for the Executive Branch Accountability Act – or vote in all the local offices where the Democratic primary pretty much decides who gets the office because there is no Republican opposition in Madison.
I am not Republican. Nor am I Democrat. When people ask me for my party affiliation, these days I reply with a simple, “Pissed.” So there’s a small question of whether I should vote in either of the primaries, since I’m not willing to be a team player on either side. This question doesn’t bother me at all; I get to vote in one of them and the only question for me is the meta-game one of which one I ought to vote in.
During the 2010 elections, I voted a straight party ticket for the first time ever and felt extremely dirty about it. I was very much voting against people, rather than for them, and while my traditional response to not having a candidate I approve of has been to write somebody in, the polls looked close enough that I didn’t dare, because one set of candidates was so very much scarier than the other set.
That didn’t work out too well for me. Or a lot of other people. We tried to fix it. That didn’t work out, either. So there I was last Tuesday, trying to decide which primary to vote in. A double dip in the recession, or even just Wisconsin lagging in a recovery, could well kill my fledgling Real Estate career of which I am rather fond. The Republicans are after my uterus, the school system, and have an inexplicable hatred of some projects I rather like (such as trains, and wind turbines). I have a lot of reasons to engage in strategic meta-game voting to try making them better, or at least keeping them in check. I have some seriously powerful reasons to hold my nose and do the classic two-party “Lesser of two evils” voting.
Let’s face it: I vote not because I think it does any good, but because nobody in power has any reason to listen to me unless I’m at least willing to show up to the polls and I find bitching more satisfying when somebody has to listen to me. I have a spectacular record for voting for losers. Some of my friends have asked me to vote from Romney because they figure it’ll doom him. But until 2010, I was really comfortable with the idea that I’d never vote for somebody who had a chance. It’s my little rebellion: I will show up with my vote, but if nobody bothered to be worth getting it, then I’ll burn it right in front of them. I am not at all ashamed of my streak of petty spitefulness, and it makes this sort of voting extremely satisfying.
Problem is, that sort of voting doesn’t really accomplish much. Nobody cares about the lone under-30-voter lodging a protest vote. I’d need a cohort of angry people ready to show up and burn their votes with me and my generation appears to collectively be a sack of lazy fucks who can’t find ten minutes to go draw a few black lines even when they have a two week window to do it in.* So here I am, burdened with responsibility, staring at polling data, and trying to see all the angles in the political meta-game.
Then I had an epiphany, and it was this: Fuck that. I’m cynical. I’m often within a hair’s breadth of nihilism. Being angry all the time is exhausting, but so is working my ass off on something that isn’t going to work with a bunch of people who aren’t interested in doing the meta-gaming they have to if they actually want to succeed. At least anger keeps me warm at night.
Given the similarities of the platforms and backgrounds of the Republican senatorial candidates, the strategically correct solution to the problem was to vote for the Republican least likely to win against Baldwin, since any of the likely winners on the other half of the ticket would be adequately acceptable. The emotionally comforting but less optimized strategy would be to vote for Tommy Thompson because he’s the least scary of the Republican candidates and that limits how bad the outcome of the general election can be.
I voted in the Democratic primary.
To anybody who wants to argue that I need to vote for Obama because a Republican White House would be a scary disaster I say this: From now on, it’s all about me and a book of matches. Cope.
*This is the nicest thing I’ve said about my generation since June 5. Seriously.